These 11 Countries in Conflict Are the Worst Places to Be a Child

Globally, 426 million children live in conflict zones today. That’s nearly one fifth of the world’s children. 

The number of conflicts around the world has more than doubled in the last twenty-five years. Children living in war-affected countries live in constant fear, experiencing grave violations of their rights, their childhoods stolen. And countless children have grown up knowing nothing but war and conflict.

The impact of conflict on children varies by age, gender, status, ethnicity, religion and disability. However, the trauma from conflict and war is toxic to all children’s psychosocial and physical development. Children who live in conflict zones are at the highest risk of experiencing violence, psychological stress, hunger, loss of education, and lacking basic resources.

Our ranking was based on the following data from the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) and the United Nations:

  • The UN-verified grave violations against children:
  1. killing and injuring of children
  2. recruitment and use of children by armed forces or armed groups
  3. abduction of children
  4. attacks on schools or hospitals
  5. refusal or lack of humanitarian support, like access to basic health care
  6. rape and other forms of sexual violence
  • The scale of conflict intensity in a country by the number of documented causalities
  • The total number and ratio of children living in areas of conflict

The ongoing conflict in Syria is dangerous and damaging for children due to a staggering amount of grave violations against children. 99% of Syrian children are living in areas affected by conflict.

Among the conflict zones in the world, Afghanistan has the most children who have been killed and maimed. While the highest number of children in conflict suffering sexual violence is in Somalia, Nigeria has the highest number of children fighting in war and recruited into arm groups.

6 countries where children face the greatest risk of sexual violence in conflict

A staggering 72 million children—17% of the 426 million children living in conflict areas, globally, or one in six—are living near armed groups that perpetrate sexual violence against them. 
The countries where children face the greatest risk of sexual violence in conflict include: 
1. Colombia
1. Iraq
3. Somalia
4. South Sudan
5. Syria
6. Yemen

How Save the Children Helps Children in Conflict Zones

Children are the most impacted by war and conflict zones. Conflicts around the world are ending childhoods – and data shows that it’s on a dangerously upward trend. Since 2010, the number of UN-verified grave violations against children has almost tripled. If left untreated, the long-term impact of conflict on children will affect their mental and physical health and development for the rest of their lives.

Save the Children believes every child deserves a future. While we’re active in the 10 worst conflict-affected countries to be a child, we’re also on the ground in over 100 countries.

We work to protect children from harm. Our emergency relief team is often the first to respond during times of crisis. Throughout our response, we work alongside local governments and other partners to provide relief that is tailored to the affected area’s needs.

In areas of conflict and during natural disasters, we create child-friendly spaces. We are the leading humanitarian organization on a domestic and global-scale when it comes to creating child-friendly spaces. These safe spaces offer affected children the chance to play and learn, while allowing parents a respite.

Other programs we offer, focus on restoring education and providing access to health care in places that lack the resources. We help reunite children with their families and work closely with refugees and internally displaced peoples all around the world.

We also perform research and advocate the rights for children at home and abroad. We engage policymakers with our expertise, knowledge and provide guidance on foreign assistance funding.

With your support, we’re able to continue supporting children affected by conflict.

Learn More About Children in Conflict


We’ll be in touch! By signing up to receive emails from Save the Children you will receive a subscription to our monthly eNews, access to breaking emergency alerts and opportunities to get involved. To ensure delivery of Save the Children emails to your inbox, add to your contact list.